Kelly-Marie Murphy – Composer


With  music  described  as  “breathtaking”  (Kitchener-Waterloo  Record), “imaginative and expressive” (The National Post), “a pulse-pounding barrage on the senses” (The Globe and Mail), and “Bartok on steroids” (Birmingham News), Kelly-Marie Murphy’s voice is well known on the Canadian music scene. She has created a number of memorable works for some of Canada’s leading performers  and ensembles,  including  the  Toronto,  Winnipeg,  and  Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, The Gryphon Trio, James Campbell, Shauna Rolston, the Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets, and Judy Loman.

Dr. Murphy’s music has been performed around the world by outstanding soloists and ensembles, and has had radio broadcasts in over 22 countries.  Her music has been interpreted by renowned conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis, David Brophy, Bramwell Tovey,  and  Mario  Bernardi. Her  music  has  been  heard  in iconic concert halls, such as Carnegie Hall in New York, The Mozarteum in Salzburg, and The National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Besides many academic scholarships awarded in Canada and England, Dr. Murphy has also won prizes for her music, dating back to 1992. She won first prize and the People’s Choice Award at the CBC Young Composer’s Competition in 1994 (string quartet category); received 2 honorable mentions in the New Music Concerts competition in 1995; earned fifth place at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris in 1996 for her first orchestra piece, From the Drum Comes a Thundering Beat. . .; was awarded first and second prizes in the Maryland Composer’s Competition at Loyola College in Baltimore, 1998; won third place in the Alexander Zemlinsky Prize for Composition in 1999 for her work, Utterances; won first prize in the International Horn Society’s Composer’sCompetition, 2001, for her work, Departures and Deviations; and in 2003 won first prize for her harp concerto, And Then At Night I Paint the Stars in the Centara Corporation New Music Festival Composer’s Competition.

Dr. Murphy has completed short residencies at the Snowbird Institute for the Arts, Utah, with Joan Tower; Tapestry Music Theatre/Canadian Opera Company, Toronto; rESOund Festival of Contemporary Music, Edmonton; Strings of the Future International String Quartet Festival, Ottawa; Soundstreams/Encounters, Toronto; and at the Banff Centre for the Arts. In 2004 Dr. Murphy was honored with The Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Calgary, and in 2005 as the Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visitor in Composition from the University of Toronto. Dr. Murphy was granted the distinction of Honorable Mention in the

2008 Barlow Prize for composition.  From 2006 to 2008, she served as

composer-in-residence to the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

Kelly-Marie Murphy was born on a NATO base in Sardegna, Italy, and grew up on Canadian Armed Forces bases all across Canada.  She began her studies in composition at the University of Calgary with William Jordan and Allan Bell, and later received a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Leeds, England, where she studied with Philip Wilby. After living and working for many years in the Washington D.C. area where she was designated “an alien of extraordinary ability” by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, she is now based in Ottawa.

For more information about Kelly-Marie Murphy, visit:


About Drumming the Plain, the Horseman is Coming (1992)

Completed in 1992, it was one of the first pieces I wrote after moving to England to do my PhD at the University of Leeds. My teacher, Philip Wilby, is something of a legend in the British brass band world and he was very adamant that I learn something about the culture of Northern England and the tradition of brass banding in the UK while I was at Leeds.

The piece stays very much within the tradition of band music that was prevalent in the 80s and 90s—it has tunes, diatonic harmonies, careful use of percussion, and highlights the section of the band. It really is a Young Canadian’s Guide to Brass Band! The piece is quite exuberant yet conservative, but I did learn a lot about scoring for band.

The title comes from a poem by Federico Garcia Lorco called Romance De La Luna, Luna, Luna. The line seemed to encapsulate for me the charging, surging, chromatic lines that drive the fast moments of the piece. I was already homesick for Calgary—mountains to the west, prairies to the east—after three months in Leeds, so the imagery of plains and horses was a powerful one for me.